I’ve been playing with Lego a lot recently. I could pretend it’s because Ever-ready, my four-year-old niece, likes to play with it whenever she comes around, but that would be a lie. I’ll sit for hours on a Friday night, crafting fantasy townscapes and steampunk flying machines out of little plastic bricks.
OK, you say, but what’s that got to do with writing?
Imperfections. Irregularities. Things that don’t quite match. That’s the connection.
As I started paying more attention to Lego, to how the sets were designed and what other people created with them, I realised that the most impressive builds feature deliberate imperfections. A light grey wall with a few dark grey bricks. A wooden bridge where one plank is a little too short. A castle with one mismatched tower.
These are the details that bring a creation to life, and it’s the same in a story. Following the rules of grammar is good, but breaking them occasionally for dramatic effect can be fantastic. Writing a character as a hardened combat veteran can lead to interesting stories, but that one moment when it turns out they collect My Little Ponies is what will bring that character to life. If everyone has turned against your main character, including one exception can make things seem more desperate, because it seems more real.
So throw in a dark grey brick. Build that triangular tower. And maybe go play with some Lego, because it’s a hell of a lot of fun.